Analyzing the Toronto Raptors Fan Base


“I look at the Blue Jays and I have a great respect for them and the fact that all of Canada follows the Blue Jays – it’s not the same with the Raptors and I get that. We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn how to be Canada’s team.”

Those were the words of then newly hired MLSE President and CEO, Tim Leiweke. Fast forward 3+ years. Two weeks into the the team’s 22nd season, and just months removed from pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers to 6 games in the NBA Eastern Conference Final, the Raptors finally have Canada’s attention.

Case in point, the Raptors gained 381,000 new followers on Twitter since the start of last season, and over 900,000 dating back to the beginning of the 2013-14. That’s pretty incredible when you consider 70% of the team’s followers are from the last 36 months, yet the account was created in 2009.

With 1.26 million followers, the @Raptors are just 100,000 followers shy of the Maple Leafs, and are experiencing a similar coming out party that we witnessed with the Blue Jays in 2015. The only difference is that the Blue Jays have been there before in 1992-93. The Raptors, however, have entered unchartered territory for the franchise.

It begs the question: is the Raptors bandwagon filling up with Leafs and Blue Jays fans, or are the Raptors tapping into new demographics. Thanks to intelligence provided by our friends at Affinio, we were able to analyze the similarities and differences between the Raptors, Blue Jays, and Maple Leafs fan bases based on their Twitter followings.

Here are my top 5 observations.

Canadian Sports Fans

There’s an intersection of sports fans that cheer for all three teams. Diehard Jays Fans and MLB Maniacs support the Raptors. Canadian Basketball Fans root for the Blue Jays. And you can find Jays fans watching Hockey Night in Canada. This indicates that Toronto, and Canadian, diehard sports fans rally together across sports.

The Raptors audience has distinct clusters of Hip Hop Fans, South Americans, and International Basketball Fans.

Media Junkies

Fans of the Raptors, Blue Jays, and Maple Leafs love to consume media. That could help explain why all three teams have over 1 million followers on Twitter. YouTubers, Canadian Online Media, Canadian News Junkies, and Canadian TV are clusters that emerged for all the audiences.

The emergence of Beliebers / Directioners suggests the Maple Leafs are resonating with teenage girls.

Pop vs. Hip Hop

Pockets of Beliebers and Directioners indicate that the Leafs are resonating with teenage girls. It also appears that Sports Moms can’t get enough of Austin Matthews either. For the Raptors, their fan base is influenced by the team’s global ambassador as indicated by the cluster of Hip Hop fans.

WWE Fans

Apparently Canadian sports fans love their wrestling. Clusters of WWE Fans appeared for all three teams. I expected the cross pollination with Leafs fans, and even the Jays, but I was surprised to see WWE Fans emerge as a cluster for the Raptors.

The emergence of Canadian cities such as Halifax and Edmonton signals the Blue Jays still own the crown as “Canada’s team”.

Canada vs. International

In the Blue Jays audience, different Canadian cities break out, including Halifax and Edmonton. This signals that the Blue Jays still own the crown as “Canada’s team”. However, the Raptors following has a distinct international flavour, including clusters of South American, International Basketball Fans, and Soccer Fans. This suggests that the team is resonating with Canada’s growing immigrant population, something that should benefit the team going forward given the country’s changing demographics.

Adam Puddicombe

Adam Puddicombe is a digital marketing professional who, by day, works in the ad agency world, and by night, covers the intersection of Canadian sports, media, and technology. Adam holds a degree in commerce, with a focus in marketing, and previously worked for Hockey Night in Canada’s Play On! and the St. John’s Fog Devils of the QMJHL. Follow him on Twitter @adampuddicombe.